Title: Journal of Caribbean archaeology
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00091746/00001
 Material Information
Title: Journal of Caribbean archaeology
Series Title: Journal of Caribbean archaeology
Alternate Title: JCA
Abbreviated Title: J. Caribb. archaelo.
Physical Description: Serial
Language: English
Publisher: Christopher Ohm Clement ;
Christopher Ohm Clement
William F. Keegan
Place of Publication: Gainesville FL
Publication Date: 2000
Frequency: annual
Subject: Archaeology -- Periodicals -- Caribbean Area   ( lcsh )
Antiquities -- Periodicals -- Caribbean Area   ( lcsh )
Genre: periodical   ( marcgt )
System Details: Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Dates or Sequential Designation: Vol. 1 (2000)-
General Note: Title from title screen (publisher's Web site, viewed Dec. 2, 2002).
General Note: Latest issue consulted: Vol. 5 (2004).
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00091746
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 003345617
oclc - 41077527
lccn - sn 99003684
issn - 1524-4776


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Full Text

Journal of
Caribbean Archaeology j

April 2000

Christopher Ohm Clement
South Carolina Institute of Archaeology
and Anthropology
1321 Pendleton St
Columbia, SC 29208
clement@sc edu
William F Keegan
Florida Museum of Natural History
Department of Anthropology
Dickinson Hall
PO Box 117800
Gamesville, FL 32611-7800
keegan@flmnh ufl edu

Editorial Board

E KofiAgorsah
Portland State University
Louis Allaire
Umversity of Mamtoba
Douglas V Armstrong
Syracuse University
L Antomo Curet
Umversity of Colorado, Denver
Elizabeth Wing
Florida Museum of Natural History

Dear Colleagues,

This letter is intended to provide an update on the status of the Journal of Caribbean Archaeology. JCA was
conceived in mid 1998 as a high quality, refereed publication venue for Caribbean archaeology. The
impetus for its creation came when one of the co-editors (Clement) had a paper rejected by a journal that
focused on an adjacent region. One of the anonymous reviewer's comments sums up the prevailing attitude
towards the paper: "...the actual results of the study, while of some parochial interest, are not likely to be of
broad interest...." Ultimately the paper was accepted for publication and is currently in press, but the
journal which accepted it does not have a wide circulation and the paper is unlikely to be read by the
audience for which it was intended. The same anonymous reviewer further suggested that "one hopes that
the existence of the Internet will prompt some energetic Caribbeanist to create an electronic forum for such
products so they can be available to the (admittedly small) audience that's interested in them". If you are
reading this letter, then chances are good that you are a member of that audience.

Since announcing JCA in September 1998 with a call for papers, there have been only two formal
submissions. One was rejected and the other has been posted to the web site. We thank both of the
individuals who saw fit to submit manuscripts for review. We expected a great deal more. A likely reason
for the lack of submissions is that many people were focused on preparing papers for the IACA conference,
held last summer in Grenada. We hope that the pace of submissions will now pick up, and intend to
continue soliciting and accepting papers. The web site, too, will be maintained. We have all written papers
and simple site reports that do nothing but sit in our files because there is no venue for publication. JCA
was conceived to be that venue, and we hope that, having read the current offering, some of you will see
the value of getting your work out there where your colleagues can access it.

Best regards,

The Editors


Journal of .. .


Christopher T. Espenshade
*.kel// and Loy, Inc.
cespenshade @skellyloy. corn

The pottery from an Early Ostionoid (ca. A.D. 650) site on the Cerrillos River, north of
Ponce, Puerto Rico, was subjected to technological and formal analyses. Forty-eight sample
vessels were examined to define nine vessel classes based on size, form, sooting, and use
abrasions. Primary intended function was assigned to each vessel class, and the vessel
counts were utilized to model the nature and duration of site use. The results /,.,.'eft that
PO-21 was the location of one to three contemporaneous houses, each occupied for less than
20 years. A full range of pot-dependent domestic activity is .''ie,'/,'e. and year-round
occupations are inferred. The results of the vessel-based analysis are contrasted iith general
inferences associated iith large sherd counts, and implications for modeling settlement are

In 1986, the Jacksonville District of the US
Army Corps of Engineers sponsored data
recovery excavations at site PO-21, an Early
Ostionoid hamlet in the Cerrillos River valley
above Ponce, Puerto Rico (Figure 1). The site
yielded a large ceramic data set, allowing for the
definition of nine vessel types (Espenshade et
al. 1987). The data were reexamined in 1995
(Espenshade 1995), and the present paper
represents a further effort to move from sherds
to vessels to behavior.

Site PO-21

Site PO-21 was located in an area threatened
by a proposed flood control impoundment on
the Cerrillos River upstream from Ponce,
Puerto Rico. The field investigations included
the hand excavation of 153 m2, the backhoe
excavation of 91 linear m of trenches, and
detailed geomorphological examination of the
trenches (Figure 2). PO-21 was interpreted as a
hamlet or small village situated on a small, level
shelf immediately above the river. The
relatively flat landform measures approximately

110 x 65 m, and prehistoric remains were
collected from four contexts:

1. The northwestern midden, an area of
approximately 30 x 7 m, with midden
deposits up to 32 cm thick;

2. The eastern or upslope midden,
approximately 90 x 15 m, with midden
deposits up to 30 cm thick;

3. The southeastern midden, covering
approximately 20 x 7 m, with deposits up to
38 cm thick;

4. The southeastern, sub-midden living floor,
covering approximately 20 x 7 m, with
deposits up to 20 cm thick.

As discussed more fully below, the pottery
indicates that all areas of the site were
approximately contemporaneous. All appear to
date to the Early Ostionoid. A calibrated two-
sigma radiocarbon result of A.D. 465-870
(uncorrected radiocarbon age of 1360 +/- 90

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 1, 2000

Vessel Assemblages and Site Duration

0 MLio SO
0 lcionu 100 om 1
Figure 1. Location of PO-21 Data Recovery Project (from Garrow et al. 1995:Figure 1).

years BP, Beta-18191) was derived from
charcoal from Feature 12, a posthole in the
southwestern midden. The radiocarbon result
supports the Early Ostionoid assignment.

Pottery Assemblage

A total of 11,271 sherds was analyzed. The
initial analysis focused on aplastic content and
surface decoration of the sherds. The
assemblage shares the following traits,
regardless of site context:

1. Painted ceramics are extremely rare,
representing less than two percent of the
assemblage. Painting was popular in the
Saladoid and Middle-Late Ostionoid span,
and the general lack of painted vessels in
this assemblage suggests an Early Ostionoid

2. Incised sherds are very infrequent,
representing less than one percent of the
assemblage. Most of the incising appears to
be incidental. Incising was popular in the
Saladoid, the Middle-Late Ostionoid, and

the Chicoid spans, and the general lack of
incised vessels in this assemblage suggests
an Early Ostionoid span.

3. Smoothed and semi-burnished sherds
dominate the collection, accounting for over
80 percent of the material. Early Ostionoid
assemblages are overwhelmingly smoothed,
semi-burnished, or burnished.

4. Large (very coarse to granule on the
Wentworth scale) limestone/sandstone,
small (medium, or coarse on the Wentworth
scale) limestone/sandstone, and grog are the
major aplastic categories, with virtually no
other temper categories represented. The
aplastics were identified under 40X
magnification on a fresh break. The exact
identification of the generic
limestone/sandstone material was not
pursued, but sandstones are present in
upslope bedrock formations.

5. Two-dimensional, modeled lugs are
infrequent, representing less than one
percent of the collection.

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 1, 2000

w Juan






Vessel Assemblages and Site Duration

North Block Midden
E i Upslope Midden
Southwestern Midden/Floor :
Cobble/Bouldr Band '
SRiver Fringe
SFPinea Silem Core.

-j '. *o n /* ^s

Figure 2. Site Areas (from Espenshade, Foss, and Joseph 1987:Figure 2).
.. 1'
,, ..,. "1

.. .; A


Fiue ie, ra (fro EsesaeFs n oeh18 iue2

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 1, 2000


Vessel Assemblages and Site Duration

6. There are no three-dimensional lugs in the
collection. Three-dimensional lugs
generally begin to appear in the Middle-Late
Ostionoid span.

7. Loop handles are present, but D-shaped
handles are not. D-shaped handles were
common in the Saladoid, and loop handles
first appear in number in the Ostionoid

8. Navicular (or boat-shaped) vessels are
present. Navicular vessels first appear in
number in the Early Ostionoid span.

Table 1 presents a summary of pottery
attributes by site area, with the southwest
midden and southwest sub-midden combined.
The assemblage is consistent with the
expectations for an Early Ostionan Ostionoid
manifestation, as defined by Rouse (1952a,
1952b, 1992) and others (e.g., Chanlatte Baik
1986; Goodwin and Walker 1975).

Vessel Form Attributes

One of the recent developments in American
archaeology has been an increased emphasis on
examining pottery from the vessel (rather than
sherd) perspective. It has been argued from the


ethnographic and archaeological data that vessel
attributes will generally reflect the intended most
common function of the pot (Braun 1980; David
and Hennig 1972; Deal 1998; Ericson et al.
1972; Foster 1960; Hally 1984, 1986;
Henrickson and McDonald 1983; Nelson 1991;
Rice 1987, 1996; Smith 1985). These
researchers have noted that key vessel form
attributes may include volume, rim diameter,
height, restriction, presence/absence of
handles/lugs, and base size and form. Volume,
rim diameter, and height will reflect the capacity
of the vessel, which, in turn, may reflect group
size and/or permanence of occupation. The
capacity attributes will also reflect the ease with
which the vessel could be used in transfer (i.e.,
how heavy a full vessel would have been).
Restriction is a measure of the basic vessel
form; it tells whether a vessel mouth is larger or
smaller than the maximum vessel diameter.
Unrestricted vessels provide high access to
contents, and may be expected in cooking
(when manipulation during the cooking is
necessary), serving (Rice 1987:Table 7.2), and
eating vessels (Rice 1987:Table 7.2; Smith
1985:301-302). Restricted vessels provide
reduced access to contents, but allow more
confident control of the contents when the
vessel is moved (Hally 1986:Table 4).
Restricted vessels also limit the contamination

Table 1. Assemblage Attributes, PO-21.
Aplastic Category NW Midden (%) SW Living Floor and Midden (%) Upslope Midden (%)
Grog 137 11 6 16
Small Limestone/Sandstone 25 7 31 7 4 5
Large Limestone/Sandstone 59 8 55 9 78 5
Other 0 8 0 8 1
Decoration NW Midden (%) SW Living Floor and Midden (%) Upslope Midden (%)
Smoothed 44 1 38 7 46
Semi-burmshed 34 8 40 7 35 5
Burnished 12 12 4 7 5
Eroded/Indeterminate 4 2 1 6 5
Rough 3 1 2 9 2 5
Slipped 0 2 0 5 0
Incised 0 3 0 3 0
Painted 1 2 1 8 2
Flat Lugs 0 1 0 3 0
TOTAL SHERD COUNT 3513 7558 200

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 1, 2000

Vessel Assemblages and Site Duration
of contents by dirt, dust, ash, and insects.
Slight restriction can be desirable when active
boiling is to be pursued (Hally 1986:Table 4;
Rice 1987:241). Vessels for liquid transport
should be restricted (Rice 1987:24; Smith
In ceramic traditions where handles or lugs
occur, their presence is most common for
vessels used in transfer (Rice 1987:226, Table
7.2). It is recognized that handles do not occur
in all pottery traditions, even though vessels in
those traditions do have transfer functions.
Handles allow heavy and/or hot vessels to be
moved and passed. If the pottery tradition
includes appendages, handles or lugs are
expected on serving vessels and on active
cooking vessels. Pots used for bulk storage or
slow cooking of large amounts of material
generally do not require handles.
Base size relative to the overall vessel, and
base form (flat vs. rounded vs. pointed) will
affect the stability of a pot. A broad, flat base
will obviously provide a high degree of
stability; it will be difficult to accidentally tip
such a vessel. A small or pointed base will
have minimal stability, unless used in
conjunction with pot supports. It should also
be noted that a pointed or rounded vessel base
will be better suited to use over an open fire
than a flat-based vessel, due to the more even
heating in the former (Hally 1988:Table 4; Rice
1987:Table 7.2).
Other attributes which can be considered
function-related are sooting and interior
abrasions. Sooting results from the use of a
vessel over an open fire of carbon-rich fuel
(Rice 1987; Skibo 1992). Sooting can be
removed through washing, clean fuel firing, or
post-depositional processes; the presence of
soot is generally associated with a cooking
Interior abrasions represent the scarring of
vessels, generally by the use of utensils (Hally
1983; Koyabashi 1994; Skibo 1992; Skibo and
Deal 1995). The interior faces of a vessel will
often show surface damage such as scratches or
pitting. When such marks are found in a
latitudinal band, it can generally be assumed that
the damage was not post-depositional.
Abrasions are expected on certain cooking,

serving, and consumption forms, whereas long-
term storage vessels should not show

PO-21 Vessel Analysis

During the initial analysis of the PO-21
pottery, large sherds with vessel form indicators
were pulled from the assemblage. Cross-
mending was then attempted, and 48 Analytical
Vessels were defined. The Analytical Vessels
do not represent a minimum vessel assemblage,
but rather represent a general range of the vessel
forms in the collection. After the 48 Analytical
Vessels were defined, the sherds which could
not be linked to an analytical vessel were
examined. The sherds not included in the 48
Analytical Vessels did not exhibit any vessel
form information not captured by the 48
vessels. Thickness, rim diameter, vessel
height, base diameter, surface treatment,
presence/absence of handles, sooting, and
abrasions were recorded for the 48 Analytical
The data from the 48 Analytical Vessels
indicate that there are at least ten size/form
classes represented at PO-21, including manioc
griddles (Figure 3, Table 2). There were
between two and eight examples of each vessel
form. It is possible that there were additional,
uncommon forms that were not captured in the
analyzed sample, but the modeling will proceed
on the assumption that nine size/form classes
were in use prehistorically.
The vessel attributes for each size/form class
were reviewed, and a typical vessel was
reproduced (coil-built with commercial clay,
kiln-fired) for each size/form. These
reproductions allowed vessel volume to be
estimated, allowed informal experimentation
with the performance of the pots in various
roles, and served as props for the Espenshade
(1995) paper.
In an ideal situation, vessel function could
be assigned from performance attributes, use
indicators, ethnohistoric accounts of related
contact period groups, and ethnographic studies
of surviving groups of similar culture type.
Hally's (1986) study of Mississippian pottery in
northwest Georgia stands as an excellent

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 1, 2000

Vessel Assemblages and Site Duration

1 Small Diameter, ..
Round, Shallow

3 Small Diameter, Globular,
Constncted Onfice

4 Medium Diameter -
Shallow Simple
-- : 77

2 Small Boat Shaped,
Loop Handles

5 Moderately Deep, Medium
Diameter, Loop Handles

6 Medium to t .,: .
Diameter ...
|m ^ T '.**>

8 Medium to Large
Diameter, Moderately

Medium to Large -
Diameter, Deep Globular


Figure 3. PO-21 Vessel Form Classes (from Espenshade 1995:Figure 4).

Table 2. PO-21, Sample Vessel Data.

Vessel Class Count Rim Diameter (cm) Height (cm) Base Diameter (cm) Estimated Volume (liters)

Small, shallow

Small, boat-shaped, with loop handles

Small, restricted

Medium, shallow

25 (1) X 16 (w)


5 Medium, moderately deep, with loop handles 8 20-26 10

6 Medium-large, shallow 4 28-46 7

7 Medium-large, deep 9 28-42 18

8 Medium-large, moderately deep 8 28-42 10

9 Very large, deep 5 48-50 18

10 Griddles (buren) 109 30 9 NA

Note: Vessel Class numbers match headings in text and labels on Figure 3.

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 1, 2000


10 Mamoc Griddle

Vessel Assemblages and Site Duration
example of utilizing the various data sets to infer
vessel functions. However, the Spanish impact
to native populations in the Caribbean was so
severe that the possible period of ethnohistoric
observation was very short. It is estimated that
the native Taino population of Puerto Rico
dropped from 30,000 in 1508 to just 1,148 in
1515 (Anderson Cordova 1980). For most of
those years, the Taino were forced out of their
usual culture pattern and placed on work farms
or mines. The situation was not conducive to
recording details of everyday Taino life, and the
ethnohistoric record of the area reflects this. In
addition, the actions of the Spanish and other
European colonists assured that there would be
no surviving population of Taino for later
anthropological study. For the present study,
the few ethnohistoric accounts of pottery use are
included where appropriate, and ethnographic
data from mainland groups is used as only
vaguely supporting documentation.
The ethnohistoric record is frustrating to one
interested in pottery. Martyr D'Anghera
(1912:71) mentions "pots of all kinds, jars and
large earthen vessels" but offers no further
description. Chronicle discussions of cooking

in pots are generally focused on either
cannibalism (Martyr D'Anghera 1912:72) or the
preparation of manioc (Bourne 1904; Vazquez
de Espinosa 1968; Ferandez de Oviedo y
Valdes 1959). The narratives do suggest that
many items (including maize, sweet yuca,
hutias, and fish) were simply roasted in coals
without pots, and many fruits were eaten raw.

1. Small Diameter, Round, Shallow
Vessels (n=5)

These vessels had rim diameters of six to
twelve cm, and basal diameters of 5 cm (Figure
4). The estimated height is less than four cm;
Analytical Vessel 1, for example, consisted of a
base plug (a flat, modeled disk used as the first
element of a coiled pot) and a single coil as the
vessel wall. Volume was low, approximately
0.2 liter. No handles or lugs were observed,
and the sample vessels were generally free of
interior abrasions. No sooting was noted.
The extreme openness and shallowness of
this vessel form negate the possibility that they
were utilized for drinking vessels. The lack of
abrasion and small size argue against their use

Figure 4. Small Diameter, Shallow Vessels (from Espenshade 1995:Figure 4).

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 1, 2000





Vessel Assemblages and Site Duration

Figure 5. Small Boat-Shaped Vessels with Loop Handles (from Espenshade 1995:Figure 3).
Figure 5. Small Boat-Shaped Vessels with Loop Handles (from Espenshade 1995:Figure 3).

as food preparation vessels. A viable
possibility is that these shallow bowls were
used for individual servings of dry foodstuffs,
or alternatively, they were used for condiments
or oils in which to dip bread. This form may
parallel the Island Carib form, balabi, which
served as a dish or plate (Allaire 1984:124).

2. Small Boat Shaped Vessels With
Loop Handles (n=4)

The only boat shaped vessels in the
secondary analysis belong to this class. The
vessels are approximately 25 cm long, 16 cm
wide, and 12 cm high at the top of the handles
(Figure 5). All had loop handles which extend
above the rim. No sooting or abrasions were
noted. These vessels were relatively stable,
being short and broad with a flattened base, and
offered easy access to the contents. The
handles suggest that they were used regularly in
transfer. There is an apparent contradiction
between the presence of handles and the

openness of the vessel. It would not have been
well suited to the consumption of runny foods
and liquids. The low volume (estimated at 0.5
liters) indicates that these vessels probably did
not hold more than a single serving. This form
is hypothesized to represent bowls for the
individual consumption of food items. This
form is similar to the sappoora (serving bowl)
of Guianan natives in size, shallowness, and
lack of restriction (Im Thurn 1967:275).

3. Small Diameter, Globular Vessels
with Constricted Orifices (n=3)

Rim diameter ranged from eight to 12 cm
for this vessel form, while the single base
measured 5 cm in diameter (Figure 6). Height
is estimated at approximately 12 cm for this
form, resulting in a volume of approximately
0.6 liter. The moderate mouth constriction of
this form equates with moderate to high
containment, while stability is less than the
other small diameter classes. This form lacks

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 1, 2000


Vessl Asemlage an Sie Dratin Epenha9

Figure 6. Small, Globular Vessels with Constricted Orifices (from Espenshade 1995:Figure 5).

interior abrasions and sooting. It is suggested
that these vessels represent individual
receptacles for water and other fluids. Among
the Island Carib, small globular vessels were
apparently used interchangeably with gourds to
hold single-serving ceremonial offerings at
feasts (Allaire 1984:124).

4. Medium Diameter, Shallow Simple
Bowls (n=2)

The single rim diameter for this class was
18 cm, while the lone base had a diameter of 16
cm (Figure 7). Vessel height is estimated at
only five cm, and the volume of the
reproduction was 0.8 liters. The basal fragment
exhibited heavy interior abrasion, suggesting a
possible food preparation function, but sooting
was not present. The shallowness and lack of
constriction would have provided ready access
to the contents, as necessary in food
preparation. Broad, shallow, flat-bottomed
vessels are more typically associated with
braising or roasting than with boiling (Hally

1986:Table 4). The size of these vessels
precludes their use for full meal preparation, but
specific elements of a meal may have been
stirred and cooked in such bowls. This vessel
class may also have been used in the roasting of
shelled maize or the pressed and washed manioc
pulp in the final step to detoxification.
Although roasting is mentioned in several of the
chronicles, the vessel size and form are not
specified (Vazquez de Espinosa 1968; MacNutt
1912; Fernmandez de Oviedo y Valdes 1959).

5. Moderately Deep, Medium
Diameter Bowls with Loop Handles
(n= 8)

In contrast to the previously discussed
class, these bowls probably were over 10 cm in
height (Figures 8 and 9). Their rim diameters
ranged from 20 to 26 cm; two vessel bases each
measured eight cm across. These vessels had
relatively high volume (1.5 liters), high
accessibility, and low stability. The flat base
would not have been well suited for use over

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 1, 2000



Vessel Assemblages and Site Duration


Vessel Assemblages and Site Duration



26 35 27

6 33

Figure 7. Medium Diameter Shallow Simple Bowls (from Espenshade 1995:Figure 6).

Figure 8. Medium Diameter Bowl with Loop Handles (from Espenshade 1995:Figure 7).

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 1, 2000





Vessel Assemblages and Site Duration

Figure 9. Medium Diameter Bowl with Loop Handles (from Espenshade 1995:Figure 8).

flames, but the form would have been suited for
nesting in coals. The handles would have
allowed the handling of a hot vessel. Several
members of this class exhibit interior abrasions,
including two rim/shoulder sherds with heavy
abrasion just below the shoulder. These
abrasions suggest a food preparation function,
with the abrasions derived from stirring of the
contents. Sooting is present on at least one of
these pots. Vessel size would have been
sufficient for full meal cooking, and this form is
interpreted as a stew pot or pepper pot.
The pepper pot was apparently ubiquitous in
the Caribbean. Unfortunately, none of the
chronicles examined for the present project gave
a good description of such a pot. The Martyr
D'Anghera (1912:72) account of Columbus'
second voyage reports that in Guadaloupe birds
were boiling in their pots, also geese mixed
with bits of human flesh. The same chronicler
(Martyr D'Anghera 1912:124) offers an account
of preparing iguana in Hispaniola and Puerto

First they gut them, then wash and clean
them with care, and roll them into a
circle, so they look like the coils of a
sleeping snake; after which they put
them in a pot, just large enough to hold
them, pouring over them a little water
flavoured with the pepper found in the
island. The pot is covered and a fire of
odorous wood which gives very little
light is kindled underneath it.

Given the size of iguanas, a fairly large pot
would be needed for such cooking.
This form is probably similar in size, shape,
and function to the tomalli-acae and toma-
heim pepper pots of the Island Carib. An 1671
illustration of a tomali-acae, redrawn by Allaire
(1984:Figure 2D), shows a medium-sized pot
with two handles. Im Thurn (1967:275)
illustrates a typical pepper pot of Guiana; it is a
medium sized vessel with a slight shoulder

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 1, 2000


Vessel Assemblages and Site Duration

Figure 10. Medium/Large Diameter, Shallow Vessels (from Espenshade 1995:Figure 9).

6. Medium to Large Diameter,
Shallow Vessels (n=4)

Diameters of 28 and 46 cm for the rims, and
16 cm for the base stand in marked contrast to
an estimated height of only seven cm (Figure
10). Volume is estimated at 4.0 liters. No
interior abrasions were noted. The vessel form
would have been extremely stable, with very
high accessibility. This vessel form would be
well suited for drying or parching, but no
abrasions were present. Such vessel forms
may have served as pans for the catching and
water washing of grated manioc pulp and/or
Chronicles from several islands suggest that
there was a relatively consistent means of
preparing manioc/cassava. The Fernandez de
Oviedo y Valdes (1959:16-17; parentheses
added) account provides good detail:

...the Indians grate it (raw manioc) and
then press it in a strainer, which is a sort
of sack about ten palms or more in

length and as big as a man's leg. The
Indians make this bag from palms which
are woven together as if they were
rushes. By twisting the strainer as one
does to remove the milk from crushed
almonds, the juice is extracted from the
yuca. The juice is a powerful and
deadly poison, and one swallow of it
will produce sudden death. The residue
after the liquid is removed, which is
something like moist bran, is cooked in
the fire in a very hot flat clay vessel of
the size they want the loaf to be. . The
liquid which is extracted from the yuca
is boiled several times and left in the
open for several days. Then it becomes
sweet and is used as honey or other
syrup to mix with other foods.

This technique was observed in Cuba (Bourne
1904), Puerto Rico (Vasquez de Espinosa
1968:47), and generally throughout the Greater
Antilles (Martyr D'Anghera 1912). Vasquez de
Espinosa (1968:39-40) reports that the manioc
syrup was also transformed into beer. A similar

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 1, 2000

5 ^23

%. '.16


Vessel Assemblages and Site Duration
technique was recorded for the Mainland Carib
of Guiana (Im Thurn 1967).
The manioc processing probably would
have required at least three types of vessels.
First, there would be the need for a large, open
vessel (or wooden trough) to catch the pulp as it
is grated over a stone-toothed tool. Secondly, a
flat vessel, undoubtedly the manioc griddle,
was used for cooking the loaf. Lastly, there
would be need for a large, deep pot for boiling
the manioc extract to render syrup. There may
have been an additional large, deep pot for
storage of the syrup, and a small, globular pot
to transfer the syrup from storage to a pepper

7. Medium to Large Diameter, Deep
Globular Vessels (n=9)

This class of vessels had rim diameters of
28 to 42 cm; the single base diameter was 14 cm
(Figures 11 and 12). Vessel height was
estimated as approximately 18 cm, with straight
to slightly incurving walls at the rim. Volume
probably averaged 8.0 liters. Constriction was

very low (i.e., access was high), while stability
was moderate. None of the nine specimens
exhibited interior abrasion or sooting. The lack
of abrasions and the volume of the vessel
suggest that it may represent a stationary
storage jar for water or manioc syrup. The
ethnohistoric accounts and mainland
ethnographic data indicate that large stores of
manioc syrup were maintained, and that the
syrup served as the basis for most dishes
(Vazquez de Espinosa 1968; Femandez de
Oviedo y Valdes 1959; Im Thum 1967).
Among the Island Carib, a similar form, the
chamacou, was used "usually for keeping
manioc beer" (Allaire 1984:125). The casiri
(manioc beer) jar among the natives of Guiana
was the largest vessel in their assemblage, and
there were typically 1-2 per household (Im
Thum 1967:274).

8. Medium to Large Diameter,
Moderately Deep Vessels (n=8)

This vessel class is similar to that just
described in terms of rim diameter (28 to 42 cm)





Figure 11. Medium/Large Diameter, Deep Globular Vessels (from Espenshade 1995:Figure 10).

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 1, 2000

Vessel Assemblages and Site Duration

Figure 12. Medium/Large Diameter, Deep Globular Vessels (from Espenshade 1995:Figure 11).

and base diameter (12 to 16 cm). The key
difference is that the latter class is only 10 cm
tall (Figure 13). No interior abrasions were
observed. This vessel form would have
provided high stability and high access. The
probable use of this vessel class is unknown,
but it may have served as a catch basin during
manioc processing, its wide mouth well suited
to catching the drip of manioc juice from a
manioc press.

9. Very Large Diameter, Deep Bowls
(n= 5)

This class was the best represented in terms
of size of vessel fragments and information
content. Rim diameters varied from 48 to 50
cm, while the two bases measured 12 and 14
cm (Figure 14). The height is estimated at 18
cm; the volume of the reproduction is 15.0
liters. Several of the vessels in this class had
interior abrasions on their walls. Sooting was
noted. The large vessel size, high accessibility,
moderate stability, and interior abrasions
suggest that this class of vessels served in full

meal preparation and cooking. The size of the
vessel suggests that the vessel was used for
minimally a family unit, and that the vessel was
not often moved. This vessel class may
represent large pepper pots.

10. Manioc Griddles (n=10?)

A total of 74 manioc griddle fragments over
2 by 2 cm were collected from PO-21. The
represented griddles shared three traits: large
aplastic size; greater thickness than seen in other
vessel classes; and one rough face and one
uneven face. The aplastic found in the griddles
are significantly larger than seen in the other
vessel classes; many had pebble-sized
inclusions (4 to 64 mm) on the Wentworth
scale. The relationship of aplastic size to
thermal shock resistance is not clear (Steponaitis
1983:37-38). The addition of large aplastics
has been suggested as a means to reduce risk of
thermal shock (Steponaitis 1983:37-45;
Blandino 1984:26-27), possibly by limiting the
spread of stress cracks. Other researchers,
however, argue that smaller mineral aplastics

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 1, 2000

'* 32



Vessel Assemblages and Site Duration


Figure 13. Medium/Large Diameter, Moderately Deep, Extreme Shoulder Vessels (from Espenshade 1995:
Figure 12).

Figure 14. Very Large Diameter, Deep Bowl with Weak Shoulders (from Espenshade 1995:Figure 13).

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 1, 2000








Vessel Assemblages and Site Duration
are desirable in limiting damage by thermal
shock (Bronitsky 1986; Bronitsky and Hamer
1986). The repeated, intense heating of the
griddles over an open fire represented a high
potential for thermal shock.
If not related to thermal shock resistance,
the large aplastics in the manioc griddles may
have been necessary in the forming process.
Large aplastics can help limit warping and
cracks during drying (Rye 1981). The thick,
large griddles would have been prone to drying
difficulties, and the large aplastics may have
been added to help remedy this potential
The thickness was also a functional
consideration. Even the largest vessels had
maximum thicknesses of less than 1 cm, but the
griddles were consistently greater than 2 cm
thick. Thick ceramic vessels will hold heat
longer than thin vessels made of the same paste.
The opposing smooth and rough faces of
the griddle were also functional. The smooth
face would have served as the upper, cooking
surface. By smoothing this face, the potter
facilitated the removal of the griddle bread,
reducing problems of sticking. The lower,
rough face was subjected to the fire. Studies
(e.g., Herron 1986) have shown that rough or
textured surfaces absorb and disperse heat more
evenly than a smooth surface, and that the
former holds heat longer. It appears that the
potter(s) at PO-21 intentionally engineered the
paste to suit the specialized form and function of
the griddles.

Summary of Vessel Form Analysis

The interpretation of 48 Analytical Vessels
from PO-21 has revealed that there was a broad
range of size/form classes associated with a
variety of inferred functions. The diversity of
vessel forms suggests that the site served as the
locus of diverse subsistence processing,
storage, and consumption activities. The
assemblage is not consistent with a resource-
specific station; instead, it is suggestive of
permanent residential site use. The presence of
structural features, manioc-processing artifacts,
and dense midden likewise support a permanent
residential occupation.

Vessel Assemblage and Occupation

Since the early 1990s, there has been
renewed interest in ceramic ethno-archaeology
(e.g., Arnold 1991; Deal 1998; Koyabashi
1994; Longacre and Skibo 1994; Longacre et al.
1991; Rice 1996; Schiffer and Skibo 1997;
Skibo 1992; Skibo and Deal 1995). The
development most germane to the present data
set is the consideration of ceramic use-life in
reconstructing site occupation duration (e.g.,
Pauketat 1989; Shott 1996). It is possible to
model occupation span scenarios based on the
vessel assemblage at a given site. The modeling
requires building premise on premise, but
nonetheless can provide interesting insight into
past behavior.
The first premise is that the total number of
vessels deposited on the site can be extrapolated
from the sample vessels. In the current
analysis, 48 sample vessels were identified
from excavations that represented approximately
10 percent of the site midden and living floor
(by area). It is not practical to simply multiply
the 48 vessels times 10, since portions of many
vessels are spread throughout the midden. The
rate of representation would equal the
percentage of site excavated only if each vessel
was limited to a single point in space.
However, single PO-21 vessels were dispersed
over several units, as generalized midden. For
the sake of modeling, it is assumed that 25
percent of the vessel assemblage is represented
in the 48 Analytical Vessels. There is no
statistical model to validate this estimate.
Working from the 25 percent assumption, it
follows that there were 192 vessels broken at
The next premise is that an average lifespan
can be assigned to these vessels. A review of
various texts on pottery analysis and
ethnohistoric use of pottery reveals a wide range
of use-life spans for low-fired pottery (Arnold
1991; Deal 1998; DeBoer and Lathrap 1979;
Foster 1960; Nelson 1991; Pauketat 1989; Rice
1987; Shott 1996). In two Central Maya
communities, cooking jars last on average 0.58
to 3.72 years, and griddles generally last less
than a year (Deal 1998:Table 4.11). In another

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 1, 2000

Vessel Assemblages and Site Duration
Mesoamerican example, Foster (1960) reported
average use lives of 1.0 years for daily cooking
jars, 6.3 years for liquid storage jars, 0.5 years
for griddles, and 0.5 years for eating bowls.
For Shipibo-Conibo pottery of eastern Peru,
DeBoer and Lathrap (1979:Table 4.5) report
generally short use lives (0.24-1.38 years) for
all vessel forms. Arnold's (1991) study of
pottery in Los Tuxtlas, Veracruz, Mexico,
revealed low use lives for all six of the major
vessel forms: comal (0.2 years); tecualon (0.7
years); cazuela (1.3 years); frijol olla (1.3
years); maiz olla (1.7 years); and tostador (1.5
years). Most of the ethnographic studies are
based on fully sedentary groups with substantial
residential structures.
It is recognized here that use-life will also
vary with primary function and vessel size
(David and Hennig 1972; Foster 1960). None
of the vessel forms from PO-21 were apparently
used in long-term storage, the function
associated with generally long use lives.
Instead, most of the PO-21 forms were used in
a cooking and/or transfer mode, with moderate
to high risk of breakage.
Vessel size will also affect use-life, with
larger vessels generally having better survival
rates than their small counterparts (Shott 1996).
Relative to the ethnographic examples, all of the
PO-21 forms can be considered medium or
small. Combined with function, size supports
an average use-life estimate on the low end of
ethnographically established range. A use-life
of one year or less was selected as the estimate
in the current model on the basis of several
ethnographic studies (Arnold 1991; Deal 1998;
DeBoer and Lathrap 1979; Foster 1960).
Another assumption is that the number of
vessels in use at one time in each household can
be reasonably estimated. A household is
defined as a nuclear family or its equivalent.

The distribution of midden refuse and the
admittedly tenuous interpretation of post
features suggests that the site had small houses,
rather than longhouses or other multi-nuclear
forms (but see Siegel 1989:204 for a brief
critique of the PO-21 house data). A review of
ethnographic summaries suggests that 5-10
vessels is a typical to low count of pots per
household for semi-sedentary to sedentary
groups (Arnold 1991:Table 27; David and
Hennig 1972; Deal 1998; DeBoer and Lathrap
1979; Nelson 1991; Rice 1987:Table 9.4). In
the case of PO-21, the sample vessel
assemblage of 48 vessels included multiple
examples of all nine non-griddle vessel types.
The recovery of two to nine examples of each
vessel type suggests that none is idiosyncratic
or atypical. Taken with the ethnographic data, it
is argued here that a typical household use
assemblage at PO-21 included at least nine
vessels, at least one of each type.
If these assumptions are all accepted as
reasonable, it is straightforward to produce
models of the duration of pottery use at the site,
using Pauketat's (1989:291) formula:

Time = (Total Number of Vessels X Use Lifespan) /
Average Household Pot Assemblage

Table 3 presents the outcome of the model
based on 192 total vessels and a 1-year mean
lifespan. If the average pot life was one year,
then a single household that was occupied year-
round would take 21 years to accumulate the
inferred vessel assemblage.
The derived Single Household Years (21)
can be interpreted many ways based on the
length of each domestic episode and the number
of concurrent structures. The number of
structures will be addressed first. The site has
at least three distinct midden areas, and each

Table 3. Duration of Pottery Use Modeled from Vessel Counts.

Total Vessels
Cumulative Duration of Pottery Use (Vessels X Life Span)

Average Lifespan 1 year
192 pots
192 years

Single Household Years [(Vessels X Life Span)/9 vessels per household] 21 years
Notes: Total vessels defined as 48 sample vessels X 4, assuming sample vessels account for 25 percent of total
site vessels. Single Household Years follows the Pauketat (1989:291) formula.

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 1, 2000

Vessel Assemblages and Site Duration
yielded post features from the prehistoric
occupation. The southwestern portion of the
site had at least two sequential structures, one
overlying the other. The detailed technological
and stylistic/formal analysis indicated a very
high degree of consistency between the various
areas of the site (Espenshade et al. 1987), but
time control is not sufficient to say if all multiple
loci were occupied concurrently or if the
different loci simply represent minor shifts
within the site. For this modeling, three
scenarios are considered: one structure
occupied at a given time; three concurrent
structures; and six concurrent structures.
For this analysis, year-round occupation is
assumed. It is clear that manioc processing
occurred on site on the basis of griddle
fragments, structures were present, dense
midden accumulated, and the soils of the site
vicinity would have been conducive to manioc
gardening (and possibly maize, if it was present
in this period). Unfortunately, no faunal
remains or ethnobotanical foodstuffs were
recovered from any of the flotation samples.
There is a wide variety of vessel forms,
suggesting diverse domestic activities, rather
than short-term, functionally limited activities.
The model can then be run for year-round
occupations by one, three, or six structures,
using the formula:

Span of Site Use = Single Household Years / Number of
Contemporaneous Houses

The modeling indicates the occupation of the
site by one household for 21 years could
account for the inferred assemblage. If there
were three or six structures at a time, the span
of site use is reduced to 7 and 3.5 years
respectively. Given the presence of four
household midden areas, it is likely that at least
four houses were present, as either sequential or
partly contemporaneous occupations (the lower
house in the southwestern area could not have
been occupied at the same time as the upper
house). The range in site use for the one year
lifespan model (3.5-21 years) is consistent with
ethnographic data on settlement duration in the
moist tropics (e.g., Wagley 1977; Im Thurn
1967). Structure decay, midden accumulation,

insect and parasite infestations, and possibly
depletion of shallow, clayey soils (this last has
not been adequately examined for volcanic
soils) all can force movement of settlements
every five to 10 years. A single household
occupation might reasonably stretch beyond this
range, since the single structure could be rebuilt
elsewhere within the site, and midden would
not accumulate as quickly as with multiple
structures. The fit between the modeled spans
and the ethnographic data suggests that the
various premises are generally reasonable for
the one-year lifespan model.

Discussion and Conclusion

The results of the final modeling directly
reflect possible past behaviors, again assuming
that the various premises are valid. It is
possible through such modeling to move
beyond 11,271 sherds or 48 sample vessels.
The modeling of site use duration is based on
stacked premises. For PO-21, the numbers
derived for one-year lifespan and 1-6 concurrent
households are consistent with ethnographic
data sets and the site contexts. In terms of
behavior, the modeling suggests that one to six
residential units concurrently occupied PO-21
for a relatively short duration (3.5-21 years).
These results fit well with the strong
technological and stylistic consistency of pottery
from all areas of the site.
If the results are accepted as reasonable
approximations of prehistoric behavior at this
particular site, they also have implications for
overall settlement modeling. On face value
(thick midden, 11,271 sherds), PO-21 might be
(indeed was) considered an intensively occupied
site for this portion of the Cerrillos Valley.
However, if this supposedly heavily occupied
site represents one to a few structures inhabited
for 3.5 to 21 years, our perception of the overall
settlement pattern requires adjustment. By the
model presented here (acknowledging all the
assumptions upon which it is based), one to
three families could easily account for all the
known Early Ostionoid sites in the Cerrillos
Valley (for settlement studies, see Espenshade
et al. 1978; Garrow et al. 1995; Garrow and
McNutt 1990; McNutt and Garrow 1990;

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 1, 2000

Vessel Assemblages and Site Duration

Oakley and Solis Magafia 1990; Pantel 1978;
Robinson et al. 1985; Solis Magafia 1985,
1989; Weaver 1989). Changes in the base
assumptions would clearly alter the outcome of
this exercise, but it is unlikely that the model
would ever result in a conclusion of high
population density. At best, the valley was very
lightly settled in this period. This conclusion,
in turn, has implications for the interpretation of
boundary area phenomena (Chanlatte Baik
1986; Chanlatte Baik and Narganes Storde
1990; Oliver 1995; Rouse 1952a, 1952b, 1982,
1992; Siegel 1989) and the presence of apparent
ballcourts in the upper Cerrillos Valley in the
Ostionoid span (Garrow and McNutt 1990;
Garrow et al. 1995 ; McNutt and Garrow 1990;
Weaver 1989). These implications cannot be
fully developed here, but it is clear that vessel
use duration modeling may advance settlement
system reconstructions for this valley and other
areas of the Caribbean. If the various premises
used in the modeling approximate reality, this
conclusion may require a reconsideration of the
intensity (or lack thereof) of Ostionoid
settlement in the Cerrillos Valley.

Acknowledgments. This article is based on research
sponsored by the Jacksonville District of the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers. The original analysis was
completed as part of a Garrow & Associates, Inc.,
project. Dr. Joe Joseph and Dennis Blanton, both
formerly of Garrow & Associates, provided input to the
original analysis. Vince Macek prepared the graphics.
The further analysis and interpretation of the data was
supported in part by Brockington and Associates, Inc.,
and was presented in a symposium at the 1995 meetings
of the Society for American Archaeology. Dr. Paul
Brockington, Patrick Garrow, and B. G. Southerlin
provided review and comments for the 1995 paper. The
expansion of the 1995 paper into the present article was
prompted by ongoing research into vessel use
assemblages by Skelly and Loy, Inc. At Skelly and
Loy, Tom East provided valuable input, and Dr. Kristen
Beckman provided technical and editorial review. The
comments of Dr. James B. Petersen, Dr. L. Antonio
Curet, and an anonymous reviewer for the Journal of
Caribbean Archaeology also helped strengthen the
article. All of the above are thanked for their assistance.


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Received May 12, 1999
Accepted August 12, 1999
Revised January 24, 2000

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 1, 2000


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